Five Ideas From the Dolomite Manifesto

The proposal coming from Trento to Sharm El Sheikh 

Column by Francesco Grillo published on the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero 

S3 05598 min

“Do not go gentle into that good night”

This is one of the most quoted poems in the movie history. The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote these words in Florence, in 1951, and they became the refrain accompanying the story of an astronaut and his daughter who, in the movie INTERSTELLAR, try to save the world from an environmental disaster. In the movie, the world seems to gradually disappear: devoured by sand storms and by a growing lack of confidence in human intelligence. In a way, this is the same condition which affects the beginning of the 21st century: we don’t trust the alerts on climate change coming from scientists and we are apparently surrendering to the idea that a catastrophe is inevitable.

The first global Dolomite Conference on Climate Change, which took place last week, originated from the idea of creating a place, in Italy, to develop ideas that can influence the agenda of those 198 countries that, every year in NOVEMBER, gather to agree on what to do to stop the temperature increase.

The numbers of the last edition of the United Nations’ Report (the IPCC published last week) are now more than just a warning: the fact that the emissions’ curve is flattening on its upper part, whereas temperatures are exponentially increasing, means that if we go beyond this point we are going to lose control of a process we started. This is proved by numbers, but also by our collective experience.

Grafico1

This summer, hundreds of millions of families and farmers experienced the effects of drought, on their skin and on their land. Actually, climate change has been discussed since the Eighties and the first UN summit (COP) dedicated to the issue was held in 1995: it was chaired by a forty-year-old Minister of the Environment raised in East Germany, Angela Merkel

Then, why has progress been so slow? According to the fifty managers, politicians, economists, students, scientists who came from all over the world to Trento/Bolzano, the problem is that we keep using institutions which were thought for a century (the 20th) way more stable than this. The conference Manifesto will already bring five ideas to Egypt, in SHARM EL SHEIKH, where on 6th November the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP, as the UN conference on climate is called) will begin. Italy and the European Union might find in it the reasons for their lost leadership. 

The first idea is that COP should be simplified. It makes no sense to get lost in unanimity, requiring the signature of 198 heads of State (the Parties). Actually, three countries – India, USA and China – would be enough to count half of the emissions that are released into the atmosphere every year. The graph accompanying this article shows that even if the European Union cut its emissions by 55% by 2030 (as it promised), it would not be enough: we must all invest our political capital so as to act as mediators between major powers.

Secondly, it is necessary to include actors that, at the moment, are not signing any pact: big cities are a significant part of the problem, but also the place to experiment possible solutions. Cities need to be encouraged to risk being at the forefront of innovation, so that they can be followed by other centers. In Italy, nine municipalities – including Rome – committed to reach climate “neutrality” by 2030, together with the EU: the next Minister of the Environment should take the leadership of a promise that is currently lacking coordination and resources.

The third proposal coming from Trento to Sharm El Sheikh is to focus on projects that combine public and private capital. This would be one of the “adjustments” that complex programs as the PNRR should take into consideration. To each euro spent by the State in a project should correspond an equivalent amount of money risked by a private actor (or by a foundation) on the same project. Plus, an indicator should measure its impact.

Global governance, then, is tied to democracy issues and to the slow pace of politics, squeezed in the short term. The younger generations, who will inherit the issue of climate change and prefer a less polluting consumption, are much more worried about climate change: in the United States, the number of car owners is 30% lower among people under 30. It might be useful to implement mechanisms with representation quotas by age, similar to those used to increase the number of women in institutions.

Finally, the battle for climate cannot become a prerogative of urban élites. 

The great energetic transformation, as well as the bill crunch, must be designed so that less well-off people can find it convenient. In the end, making energy production available everywhere would be a formidable lever in combating inequality. It is even natural for the investment in photovoltaic and wind energy to start in rural areas.

There are five levers to avoid losing the most important battle of the 21st century: they are related to the idea of including everyone in a challenge that cannot be delegated to experts, analyzing the issue without proposing solutions, or to ambassadors, trying to occupy a space that should belong to politics. And this politics should be brave enough to imagine the future that will be lived by our children.

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